Year-round patterns of mineral lick use by Moose (Alces americanus), deer, and Elk (Cervus canadensis) in north-central British Columbia
Keywords:Camera trap, mineral licks, Moose, Elk, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, ungulates
Natural mineral licks are important to the physiological ecology of several species of ungulates in North America and abroad. Information on year-round patterns of mineral lick use by ungulates in Canada is poorly understood. We used camera traps to record patterns of mineral lick use by four ungulate species visiting five naturally occurring mineral licks located within the John Prince Research Forest and surrounding area, near Fort St. James, British Columbia, Canada. Our cameras detected over 1800 mineral lick visits by ungulates from February 2017 to January 2018. Mineral licks were visited year-round, however, most visits were made between May and September during morning hours. We observed variable lick visitations among sites, species, and sex and age classes. The species observed in descending number of lick visits included Moose (Alces americanus), White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Elk (Cervus canadensis), and Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus). Some licks were visited by all four species, while others were visited by fewer. Female ungulates were recorded at licks more frequently than males or juveniles, which likely reflected the underlying sex and age structure of the population. Elk spent more time at licks than Moose and deer and there was no difference in visit durations between Moose and deer. Most visits were made by single animals, but group visits were also observed. Our findings provide evidence that mineral licks are used year-round by ungulates and appear to be important habitat features on the landscape.
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